Bob Kerslake sheds light on his review of the Treasury for Labour's John McDonnell

Former head of the civil service drafts in TUC chief Frances O'Grady and ex-KPMG deputy Alan Buckle to assess whether the Treasury is "fit for purpose"

By Matt Foster

01 Dec 2015

Former head of the civil service Lord Kerslake has offered up more detail on the review of the Treasury he has been asked to carry out by the Labour party, naming figures from local government, the private sector, trade unions and academia to work on his report.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell announced earlier this year that Kerslake, who stepped down as head of the civil service in 2014 after two years in the job, had been asked to take a detailed look at whether the Treasury was "fit for purpose​".

Kerslake announced on Tuesday that he had appointed Alan Buckle, former deputy chairman of the KPMG consultancy, former Birmingham city council chief executive Stephen Hughes, TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady, Professor Karel Williams of Manchester Business School and Professor Simon Wren Lewis of Oxford University to sit on the panel.

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According to Labour, the review will "consider whether the current role, responsibilities and operating mandate of HM Treasury are appropriate for the task of promoting and managing sustainable growth in a fairer and more equal society". 

The panel's recommendations are set to be published in July 2016, with Kerslake saying the appointments announced on Tuesday would bring "a collective wealth of experience that will ensure we are equipped to cover the ground thoroughly".

He added: "We are issuing our general call for evidence today and I will be inviting contributions from a wide range of sources including business, local government and former chancellors and chief secretaries. I look forward to receiving responses from everyone who feels they have a contribution to make.

“I am pleased to have had a number of discussions already with important contributors, for example accountancy bodies such as CIPFA and ICAEW and constitution experts, such as the Institute for Government.”

The panel will also be supported by an advisory group whose members include David Walker, contributing editor of Guardian Public Leaders and a former Audit Commission director, Jonathan Portes of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, and Geoff Mulgan, the chief executive of the Nesta think tank.

Mulgan has previously called for the Treasury to be broken up, arguing in a piece for CSW that its wide remit of overseeing fiscal policy, government borrowing and growth allows it to play too dominant a role in economic policymaking.

A briefing provided by the Opposition said that Kerslake's review would specifically look at the relationship between the Treasury and other key government institutions, including the Bank of England, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and HM Revenue & Customs.

Labour said it would also look at how the Treasury could be used to oversee a "strategy for deficit reduction that avoids damaging the country’s growth potential", in line with the party's turn towards an anti-austerity economic policy under McDonnell and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

McDonnell said: "The next Labour government needs to be confident that the major institutions that are charged with managing our economy and public finances are fit for purpose, and to consider how they can be made more effective is delivering fair and sustained economic growth and prosperity.

"I invited Lord Kerslake, former head of the civil service, to bring together a team to review the operation of the Treasury itself and am delighted that the review is being launched today with an impressive panel of economic and financial experts under Bob’s leadership.”

Since leaving Whitehall, Kerslake – who sits as a crossbench peer and is now chair of the Peabody housing trust – has been a critic of the government's plans to extend the Right to Buy policy to housing association properties.

Before becoming head of the civil service, a role he held while also serving as permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), Kerslake led the Homes and Communities Agency and has been chief executive of Sheffield City Council.

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